If your doctor prescribed a blood thinner and you’re reading up on the potential side effects, you may be asking yourself – do I really need this?
Edward Carreras, MD, an interventional cardiologist with the Heart & Vascular Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, discusses the benefits and risks of using these drugs.
Why do I need a blood thinner?
“Doctors commonly prescribe blood thinners for a variety of heart conditions, both to treat and prevent different types of heart disease,” says Dr. Carreras. “Blood thinners can be scary but are also very effective at what they do.”
Blood thinners, or anticoagulants, can lower the chance that a blood clot forms. They are prescribed to individuals who are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke due to an irregular heart rhythm, heart disease or prior heart attack or stroke.
What side effects can I expect?
“The downside to blood thinners is that they make the body more likely to bleed,” said Dr. Carreras. “Anytime I discuss a blood thinner with a patient, we’re always discussing the risks and the benefits.”
Some individuals for whom the risk may outweigh the benefits of a blood thinner include those who are prone to bleeding in their gastrointestinal system or those who are fall risks.
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Will I need blood thinners for life?
“The risk and benefit ratio is reassessed as patients get older and their medical conditions change,” Dr. Carreras said. “I tell patients that nothing is forever.”
Some individuals take blood thinners for only a short time, while others may need to take one daily for several years. Your doctor will work with you to determine the correct dosage, and eventually the need for a blood thinner may decrease.